Rodgers faces toughest test to date…
Seven years ago, Brendan Rodgers took his Celtic side to Barcelona for his first taste of UEFA Champions League group stage action. Four wins from four in the league and 15 goals scored had given Celtic fans hope of a famous result at the Camp Nou.
This hope was quickly dashed as a certain Lionel Messi put the Catalan side ahead after just three minutes and his Barcelona side would go on to inflict a humiliating 7-0 defeat of Rodgers side.
Celtic face a much more reasonable task next Tuesday in their opening game of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League as they head to Rotterdam, yet it is a task that will test Rodgers new look Celtic side to the limit.
A trip to Ibrox to face a dysfunctional theRangers is the biggest test Rodgers has faced so far this season, but that is about to change now that the Champions League is here. And on Tuesday evening Arne Slots Feyenoord will pose a much sterner challenge if PSV’s 7-3 dismantling of theRangers is anything to go by.
In terms of team selection, it is a tale of misfortune in key positions for both Celtic and Feyenoord. Celtic’s centre half crisis is well documented, Maik Nawrocki, Cameron Carter Vickers and Stephen Welsh will all miss the game on Tuesday.
Moving to the other end of the pitch, Feyenoord have problems of their own. Mexican international Santiago Gimenez will miss the opening two fixtures in the Champions League due to suspension, which is certainly good news for Celtic with the 22 year old netting six goals in five league games so far this season.
£7million signing Ayase Ueda was the obvious choice to replace Gimenez, but he picked up and injury on international duty with Japan earlier this week. Feyenoord will most likely start with an unrecognised striker on Tuesday, but it’s Arne Slots wingers who pose the biggest threat to Celtic.
Luka Ivanusec and Brazilian Igor Paixao will likely start in Rotterdam next week. Both players scored in Feyenoord’s 6-1 trashing of SC Heerenveen on Saturday. Calvin Stengs is another creative spark Rodgers must look out for. Once tipped for greatness at a young age, Stengs has moved back to his homeland in search of revitalising his career. One goal and four assists in five league games is certainly a start in doing so.
The midfield battle will be crucial. McGregor, O’Riley and Hatate is clearly Celtic’s best midfield and could cause problems for an all Dutch Feyenoord midfield in Dutch international Mats Wieffer, new signing Quinten Timber (brother of Arsenal’s Justin Timber) and the aforementioned Stengs.
Two clubs steeped in history run in a very similar way, a healthy relationship between both fanbases is widely accepted by both sides. As tough a test as Rodgers Celtic as faced this season, but certainly not a test his side could not overcome.
The healthy relationship between both historic clubs will be put under strain come next Tuesday when the whistle blows in Rotterdam.